City leaders say they plan to award $350,000 in mini grants to small community organizations as part of an effort to stem the tide of gang violence.
Councilman Reggie Gaffney said the city then wants to let those organizations come up with their own grassroots ideas.
“We think people who live in the community know best,” Gaffney said on Friday. “And I think it’s time for us to start listening to them and let them come up with their own ideas.”
“There are churches and committee organizations in the neighborhoods on the ground that are small, there may be one or two or three people working there, but they’re doing this work every day,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “They deal with it. They live with it. We’re going to get them these funds.”
Curry anounced earlier this week that he would authorize the transfer of $50,000 in executive branch funds for the grants. City Council members said they plan to contribute $300,000 to the same cause. But that number won’t be confirmed until the final city budget. Jacksonville’s new fiscal year begins October 1.
The finance committee recently finished its work on the city budget and found about $877,000 in unneeded, or enhancement funds. The final budget will go before the full City Council at the end of September, and Council President Aaron Bowman doesn’t expect to have any trouble approving the proposed usage of $300,000 in enhancement funds for the mini grant program.
“The way to do this is to work through the Kids Hope Alliance,” said Bowman. “They’ve got the language in there that allows them to do it.”
According to Bowman, KHA will work with the awarded organizations to make sure they maintain accountability and prove what they’re spending the grant money on.
The city has about a month to figure out how the program will be advertised and how the grant money is going to be awarded, because leaders want to start accepting grant applications in early October, as soon as the city budget is approved.
“If we see success, which we think we will, then we’ll look at continued support and other options,” said Bowman. “And certainly we’ll go to the business community and ask them to help in this effort, because this is all of Jacksonville, it’s not a section of Jacksonville. We know we’ve got to do everything we can to make this a safe environment. And I don’t want to see another child, or anyone, shot down due to violence that we could have prevented.”